How do I tackle this last blog? Since my last entry up until now I have had no spare time to sit down and write this. All I can say is that since my last entry I have done a lot of crying. Although I will be in Madrid next year studying, I am truly closing a wonderful chapter of my life here in La Rioja. I am currently sitting in the Madrid airport waiting the 5 hours before I have to board my flight to the US. I have been catapulted back to 2010 where I was hysterically weeping alone in the Palma de Mallorca airport with many Spaniards staring at me awkwardly. This time I wept alone on the bus from Logroño to Madrid. So far, no problems in the airport… but, it’s good to see I haven’t changed THAT much. I could sit here writing pages and pages to pass the time talking about my time here…. quite easily…. but, I will spare you from a novel. However, I do want to say something.
It is incredible to see how things turn out differently than you expect. When I signed up for this program during my senior year of college in 2011 and received my LAST choice, La Rioja, it was a way of avoiding jumping into an entry-level job that I had no interest in. I didn’t want to just have a job right out of college because it is something college seniors are expected to do. I knew it would be a fantastic adventure, not so much on the job front, but to explore a new area of Spain. The funny part was that the job aspect is what kept me here a second year…. not exploring Spain and Europe (although I was fortunate enough to do that as well). I fell in love with my job here. I met incredible and unforgettable people along the way as well… some fellow auxiliares, Spanish friends, my co-workers, and my private lesson students and their families. For two years I saw these people on a daily basis and next year that won’t be the case at all. It is very difficult to wrap my mind around that… hence the weeping on the bus. To sound VERY cheesy I will say that when one chapter of your life closes, the next one opens. Next year, I will also be beginning an incredible, yet scary, new adventure in Madrid. It is very exciting and I’m very anxious to begin.
My final weeks in La Rioja have been VERY emotional. I left off right before I said goodbye to my schools. I spent 4 of 5 school days saying goodbye to students. I cried every single time. First, I said goodbye to El Arco, which wasn’t easy. I left with many cards and after that day I knew the rest of the week was going to be so hard. Wednesday was the most intense saying goodbye to Arrúbal, There are only 3 classes there and each class presented me with gifts and cards galore. They then surprised me with a feast of chorizo, salchichon, chips etc. The students were crying and I was crying and as I left the school to go to Agoncillo, they all ran out and grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go begging me to stay. I was in a sea of crying children and I just cried buckets with them. I will never forget that moment ever. Saying goodbye to Agoncillo was just as difficult but for some reason I was able to keep the tears in check until the very end when the school surprised me with yet another feast and the teachers surprised me with a 5-piece wine set, and a beautiful purse. Then I said goodbye to Ribafrecha and San Roman. Ribafrecha really surprised me this year. I had two troublemaker students in the oldest class and when I was saying goodbye to their class, thanking them for being awesome kids, these two kept shushing people when they made noise because they were so intently listening. San Roman we had a fun school day and I didn’t cry until much later when it hit me that I wouldn’t be seeing them again. By the end of the week, I had used up a good majority of my tears and had MANY gifts and cards that somehow I have managed to fit into my luggage.
Following the emotional goodbyes, my friends and I went to Barcelona to see Rihanna in concert. One of my coworkers happened to be going to the same concert with his friend and girlfriend so it was great to hang out all together. Rihanna put on a great show. I recommend her concert to anyone! We were only there one night and then it was off to start the Camino de Santiago!!
We started our journey in Roncesvalles, a small town near the French border. We slept there for the night and then the following day walked 23 kilometers to Zubiri. It was gorgeous weather and pretty hot, and yet I enjoyed myself immensely! By the time we got to Zubiri my feet were tired, but not in pain. We ate lunch, showered, rested, had dinner and prepared ourselves for the second day. The second day we walked 21 kilometers to Pamplona. Again, pretty difficult but doable. Each day takes about 6 hours to walk. While in Pamplona we had lunch with one of our Spanish friends and then rested to prepare for our final day. We walked 26 kilometers to Puente la Reina and this day was by far the most difficult and the hottest. It took us 7.5 hours to complete. By the time we arrived in Puente la Reina we were SO tired. To officially complete the Camino you need to block out at least a month because it requires walking all the way across Northern Spain until you hit Santiago de Compostela. Three days was difficult enough and I hope to complete another portion next year. Traditionally, the walk is for religious purposes, but I can say that just doing three days can be very meaningful and you learn a lot about yourself along the way. I highly recommend it to anyone. It isn’t easy by any means, but if you feel like it is something you would want to do, don’t hesitate.
This leaves me with my last few days in Logroño. There was a medieval festival in the city and friends and I were able to enjoy the stands and parades a bit before saying goodbye to each other. On Wednesday, my friends Emma and Andrea and I went to our final bodega. It was great, the guide gave us a free tour and a free wine tasting. We bought bottles of wine and left so content. We basically crashed a business meeting because on the same tour were four men in suits who barely could get off their iPhones. For us, it was hysterical to be dressed so casually listening to a tour with these businessmen. It was a great way to end my time with some of my friends. I said goodbye to my co-workers on Wednesday on sacred Calle Laurel, where all the magical pinchos are. One by one they said goodbye until there were only 5 of them left. When they all left at the same time, the tears came out again. The co-workers I had in La Rioja were the most amazing people I could have been placed with. All of them. I still wonder how I got so lucky. Then there was yesterday. I said goodbye to EVERYBODY else: my good auxiliar friends, Spanish friends and the families of my private classes. Coffees, wines, and pinchos galore. Then I was escorted to the bus station with my friends Angel, Emma and Maeve. Somehow I managed to keep it together until I made it onto the bus at 1:30 am. While I stared at them through the window they did silly dances to make me laugh. When the bus officially left Logroño the whole day, and the conclusion of my two years hit me and the waterworks resumed. Which leaves me here…. in the Madrid airport sitting on the ground surrounded by my big blue suitcases. I have awhile before I board, but I can’t wait to get on the plane. I get to see my family and friends so soon!!! Maybe I will keep this blog open for when I come back to Spain to study in Madrid…. It will be a different blog to be sure, but that isn’t a bad thing. So, I will sign off for now until September…. see you Americanos in 12 hours J